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24.04.20 - 30.04.20 Sup SEAkers!


A motorist stops near a mural painted as a tribute to medical workers in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia.

This Week's News Spotlight:

Zero COVID-19 cases for 10th consecutive days in Brunei | Cambodia set up new ministry council to stop illegal online content | Travellers in Java, Indonesia ignore ‘mudik’ ban | Lockdown to be Lifted in Laos if No New Covid Cases Confirmed | Malaysia's economic sectors to be reopened first, schools later | Myanmar’s COVID-19 measures in place until mid-May | Philippines’ colleges, universities not in quarantine areas may reopen on May 4 | Singapore’s total employment plunges in Q1, sharpest drop since SARS | Thailand's state of emergency extended | HCM City, Vietnam's economy takes a hit from the pandemic


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Zero COVID-19 cases for 10th consecutive days in Brunei

Brunei's Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the press conference at the Ministry of Health’s Al-’Afiah Hall.

For the 10th consecutive day, Brunei Darussalam has no new COVID-19 case and the current tally remains at 138. However, one recovered patient was tested positive again bringing the total number of such cases to 22.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: It is truly heartening to see Brunei emerging from this crisis relatively unscathed, more research and attention should be spent understanding what Brunei did correctly. However, the number of relapsed cases remain a cause of worry, understanding why patients relapse will be very helpful for other countries who are still at the stage of limiting the scale of the outbreak.


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Cambodia set up new ministry council to stop illegal online content

Cambodia's Culture Minister Phoeurng Sackona speaks to reporters.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts on Tuesday formed a Disciplinary and Accolade Council to control activities on social media in a bid to fight the proliferation of malicious content, which could negatively impact society.


The measure comes after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned legal action against online sellers dressing provocatively while advertising on social media.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: While it seems on the surface, this new council is meant to uphold Cambodia’s customs and traditions, it does have a lot of leeway to determine the definition of illegal content. On a broader scale, it can be used to legally subdue alternative voices that aims to gain traction using social media.


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Travellers in Java, Indonesia ignore ‘mudik’ ban

A police officer stops a bus at the Bitung exit gate of the Jakarta – Merak toll road on April 24 on the first day of Indonesia's 'mudik' travel ban.

Many residents of regions across Java have been ignoring the government’s mudik (exodus) ban and are insisting on traveling home undetected, even though some are testing positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in their respective hometowns.


Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo said he had received reports and photographs showing travellers returning to their hometowns across the province, with some coming by dangerous means.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: As per last week commentary, it is unfortunate that the people are not willing to cooperate with the President’s decree. This does not bode well for Indonesia’s efforts to flatten the curve. Expect higher infected counts in the coming weeks.


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Lockdown To Be Lifted In Laos If No New Covid Cases Confirmed

Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith chairs the Prime Minister-Deputy Prime Minister Meeting on 28 April 2020.

Lockdown in Laos could be lifted on 3 May if no new cases of Covid-19 are confirmed, and the situation in neighboring countries remains stable, according to the national taskforce.


Laos went into full lockdown on 30 March under Prime Ministerial Order No. 06/PM. In mid-April, the Prime Minister extended lockdown measures until 3 May.


The National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control met yesterday to discuss the lifting of lockdown restrictions after the country has not had a confirmed case of the coronavirus in 15 days.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: Laos has done a good job thus far, I am slightly surprised that there are no new cases at all despite the mass exodus of people out of Vientiane as reported in our update last week.


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Malaysia's economic sectors to be reopened first, schools later

Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the Malaysia's Health Ministry has prepared Covid-19 mitigation guidelines for all economic sectors seeking to reopen once the MCO is relaxed.

The Health Ministry is proposing that economic sectors be opened first before a decision is made as to when schools and social sectors are reopened, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said the ministry was looking into guidelines for childcare centres, personal exercise and schools, before considering allowing them to resume operations.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: It is evident that countries are not able to keep its economy shut for prolonged period of time. This is a catch 22 situation for the government because there are reports that countries that open the economic sectors prematurely are at high risks of a new wave of infections.

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Myanmar’s COVID-19 measures in place until mid-May

A worker is seen wearing a face mask as he walks past closed Sule pagoda and a mosque in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, on Saturday (April 25).

The health ministry would not ease its measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 despite the relatively low number of cases in Myanmar and would keep the restrictions in place at least until May 15.


The ministry added in an April 26 statement that more than 40,000 people were suspected of having the disease. It said fewer than 7000 people had been tested, 146 cases had been confirmed, five patients had died, and 10 had recovered. The country’s infection rate is 2.2 percent.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: The main reason for the low number of cases is due to the low testing rates. The government is sensible in not taking any chances as of now because the infection rate is rather high compared to other countries.

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Philippines’ colleges, universities not in quarantine areas may reopen on May 4

Philippines' Presidential Spokeperson Harry Roque.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the higher education institutions (HEIs) have been authorized to operate with a skeletal force “only for purposes of finishing the Academic Year 2019-2020, issuing credentials to students, and preparing for flexible learning arrangements for the next academic year.” The proposed school opening in September, meantime, still hinges on the decision of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: We stand by our commentary last week that allowing students to return back to school may create potential clusters. On a sidenote, we notice a tale of 2 countries when you compare Malaysia’s directive of opening schools at a later date.

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Singapore’s total employment plunges in Q1, sharpest drop since SARS

People in Singapore's Central Business District (CBD) on 10 March 2020.


Singapore's total employment in the first quarter saw its sharpest drop since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, according to preliminary estimates released on Wednesday (Apr 29).


Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, contracted by 19,900 in the January to March period. This was due to a significant reduction in foreign employment, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its quarterly update on the labour market.


During the SARS outbreak, total employment fell by 24,000 in the second quarter of 2003.

Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: With the recent surge of cases, primary from the migrant workers’ dormitories, many saw this move coming as Singapore has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia now. There are serious concerns on whether the healthcare system is able to cope with the sudden surge, hence an extension of the circuit breaker is a sensible move by the government.

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Thailand's state of emergency extended

The mural inside the new ordination hall of Wat Phai Moo Khwid Satthatham in Wiset Chai Chan district of Ang Thong,Thailand, shows deities wearing face masks to commemorate the coronavirus disease outbreak during its construction.

The cabinet on Tuesday officially extended the state of emergency to control the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) for another month to May 31, maintained the curfew and set guidelines for easing the lockdown of businesses.


The cabinet also resolved to maintain disease control measures. Inbound traffic by land, water and air will remain heavily restricted. Inbound flights will be banned for another month from May 1 to 31. The curfew will remain from 10pm to 4am. Unnecessary interprovincial travel must be cancelled or postponed.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: This is the government’s only available option to control the spread. This will be an extremely hard time for the farmers and low-income workers, hopefully the financial support of 5,000-baht handouts from the government will relieve some of the financial pressure.

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Vietnam's economy takes a hit from the pandemic

HCM City has taken a number of measures to control COVID-19.

Ho Chi Minh City’s economic growth in the first quarter was only 0.4 percentage points higher than in the same period last year, Nguyễn Thành Phong, chairman of its People’s Committee, told an online meeting on Friday.


The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a huge impact on the city’s economy from the second quarter onwards since enterprises have begun to see decrease of orders from major export markets, he said.


Sup SEAkers! editor's thoughts: Many have commented that with the ongoing trade war, Vietnam will emerge as the biggest winner. Well, with the COVID-19 pandemic, every country becomes a loser. We expect Vietnam to come out strong after the pandemic is over.

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